The film IS a joke BECAUSE it lacks a subtle touch.
Subtlety does not always equal great. Great films do not have to have subtlety if it is not necessary. Funny how much subtlety gets thrown around here as if it’s a make or break thing for a film.
I find Aronofsky’s camera to be delightfully unsubtle. Directors tend to go one of two ways – either they hit you over the head, or they are so afraid of offending anyone they take no opinion. Darren has something to say and he says it, and just for that I like his stuff.
“I find Aronofsky’s camera to be delightfully unsubtle.” Agreed.
“The film is a joke BECAUSE” it set out to be entertaining. You know, jokey. You know, not as serious as it appears to have received credit for. Or serious in ways alternate to those it has been given the most credit for (SHOWGIRLS comparisons, I’m looking at you). I found the film to be populated almost exclusively by incredibly two-dimensional characters…two-dimensional characters nevertheless rewarded very full performances in a structure that successfully balanced nasty gross-out shocks with palpably relieving humor.
Top laughs from both audiences I’ve watched it with: 1) “Was I GOOD?!” 2) Nina realizing her Mom’s asleep in the room. 3) Dragging the “corpse.” 4) World-famous shoplifter Winona Ryder declaring “You STOLE from me?” 5) Portman alone after Cassel has exited saying, “That was ME seducing YOU.” 6) “You BIT me?” Etc. Etc.
I personally don’t see any strong connection to THE RED SHOES as much as I do an obvious mutual connection between both films to the original source fable. THE RED SHOES has such a strong ensemble cast, opening with a variety of other fascinating characters before temporarily prioritizing Victoria’s tale. I find Powell’s method of transitioning into the musical-like fantasy sequences within the dance numbers to permit much more empathy between audience and performer/character than any of the subjective visual stings of BLACK SWANS dance-time camerwork, so much so that the respective perspectives declare different intentions. And (*******DOUBLE SPOILERS*******) I ultimately find Victoria’s suicide to be much more mysterious, lonesome, and sincere than Nina’s (“Well, we’ve gotta finish this movie sometime! And this sure is what everyone’s been expecting the whole time.”). Upon closing, RED SHOES leaves us with a variety of alignment characters whose regret about the tragedy we reflect upon and through. BLACK SWAN via Nina seems satisfied with a closed universe…as Daniel Plainview might say, “I’m DONE!” Quite honestly, ballet seemed to provide little more than a convenient framework that a mass audience could immediately agree provides a universe of intense physical rigor. Unfair in its exploitation of an entire art form? Sure, but I didn’t go in expecting anything more than a good, nasty horror film, and it delivered. Admittedly, much more the first time around than upon second viewing.
However, BLACK SWAN did get me thinking about depictions of schizophrenia or, since I know it does not intend to be a medically accurate exploration of that, movies that examine hallucinatory mental illness through committed subjective depictions of their protagonist’s universe. Of course REPULSION is my number one pick for BLACK SWAN soul mate, but I also think Cronenberg explores this pretty obsessively across SPIDER, NAKED LUNCH, and most stunningly, VIDEODROME. Rewatching VIDEODROME this week, I was surprised to notice how much it had in common with BLACK SWAN’s structure in that both take place PERHAPS ENTIRELY within the protagonist’s twisted, diseased delusion. We are not told. It is never clarified which moments if any represent an unfettered consensual reality. I presume a protagonist actually kills him or herself in each case, but….uh…
I’d be curious to hear any other recommendations of interesting movies that occur deeply and unapologetically within a protagonist’s distorted subjectivity: Lynch’s LOST HIGHWAY and MULHOLLAND DRIVE definitely, Kaufman’s ADAPTATION, and VIDEODROME’s bastard-cousin assassin’s tale, TAXI DRIVER, though I think the sensation that the movie is entirely through Bickle’s worldview arises more from chronic stylization that uncannily deforms otherwise everyday spaces into menacing physical threats than any actual subjective hallucinations of specific events that I could point to (the tracking shot past the black diner customers or the entire conversation with Marty in the back seat perhaps being the best two candidates for possible hallucinations). Come to think of it, SHUTTER ISLAND returns to this delusional turf that BLACK SWAN inhabits…intentionally yet also unfortunately with none of the subtlety of TAXI DRIVER.
^^ Lodge Kerrigan’s Clean, Shaven.
Subtlety is a thing, but it’s not the only thing. My problem with Black Swan was that once you get past the idea of them doing a film in the style of the ballet… once you GET that it’s “Black Swan within Black Swan”, below that surface, what is there?
For me there was nothing.
MATT: thanks for the recommendation…have heard of that lately and will have to check it out.
AXELUMOG: Can you tell me more? I don’t know doodley-squat about SWAN LAKE.
Also, how did folks with onychophagia or dermatillomania dig the movie?
It’s unfortunate you share your initials with “Black Swan”.
But fitting the film shares its initials with “bullshit”.
The film is just not funny. Even if/when it tries to be humorous, it’s pathetic.
Oh, YOU BIT ME! Hahahahaaa, TEARS OF LAUGHTER!
You STOLE from me? HILARIOUS…is that meant to be an in-joke? Yeah? So? About 10 years too late!
Wow, Natalie Portman gives herself a paw and…MOTHER is in the room! WHOA…SIDE-SPLITTING STUFF!
Move over Marx Brothers, Darren Aronofsky is the new comic master!
Only thing worse than a shitty wannabe “dark and edgy” thriller:
A wannabe “thriller” that attempts to distract/balance itself with REALLY shitty jokes (if they even were meant to be jokes).
My main problem with the film is the over the top, in your face “MUSICAL CUES” popping in and out like a sophomoric horror film.
I get that the music is an attempt at a more untraditional “theatrical” or “operatic” approach to scoring. And I absolutely respect him for the taking the risk and trying it, but it just does not work.
There’s a reason why films do not need to have overtly obvious blaring instrumentation to accompany screen action. We’re not ballet patrons 200 feet away from stage. We’re right there in the midst of it, in the moment, right next to the subject. And when your petty “horror” moment comes out of nowhere and your music cues up into “SURPRISE!” mode, you not only jar me, but you take me out of that intimate context you’ve been trying to build. You alienate me as a viewer and basically lose whatever you had built up to that point.
My first ever attempt on The Mubi’s Fake Criterion Covers. Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.
Movie sorta sucked but that criterion cover is bomb!!
Well why not. They did BENJAMIN BUTTON, for God’s sake…
My review of Black Swan
are they going to release it on criterion?
@Diabolique – No it’s released from Twentieth Century Fox and it’s an awesome Blu-ray release!
What Happened to Sarah Lane? she’s gone!
I love Black Swan.
i love this movie.
I can tell…
…by the way, guys, I finally got me a bootleg of this DVD (it doesn’t sell here and it didn’t show here. Bitch about censorship in the West all you want, you haven’t sat in a movie theatre knowing entire reels have been cut out by the government), so maybe I’ll be in on this discussion soon!
You know I actually don’t have a lot to say about this. You know what you’re going to get when you get in, so if you don’t like Aronofsky it isn’t gonna convert you and if you like Aronofsky, well you’ll enjoy it quite a bit.
I think Natalie Portman did fantastic, though, I was actually surprised at how well she pulled it off. I think, more than anything, Aronofsky hit all the right notes in the background elements (more the supporting/background characters than the art design, that is), as even though the movie is death-gripped in Nina’s mind, the ballerina troupe was very behind-the-scenes realism, in the way their smallest gestures were read-into by Nina as well as how much they affected her mood or confidence—even though most of the time they were, as would actually happen, basically uninterested in her either way.
I’d disagree. I don’t think I had considered myself a fan of Aronofsky before Black Swan. Consider me converted. It was fantastic. Prolonged adolescence and the desire for transcendence has never been so painful. One of the year’s best.
It reminded me a little bit of The Wrestler in a some ways (particularly the endings, although The Wrestler’s works way better), except that I liked The Wrester and did not like Black Swan. The film was simply way too obvious and the images weren’t very intriguing. Waaay too heavy handed at times, and way too “I’m so smooth and subtle” at others, but it didn’t do very well in either department. The film seemed to be mixing too many weirdly conflicting tones and some unexpected attitude shifts in certain characters seemed inauthentic, designed to conform to this path that Nina was so fixed into from the get-go.
“Black Swan” is popcorn arthouse. It will be forgotten a few years from now. Is anyone still talking about Aronofsky’s earlier work?
I’m sure it’ll still be popular, if not among people on mubi. Amelie, Pan’s Labyrinth, and City of God are all popcorn arthouse and people still talk about those.
Who talks about “Amelie”? I rarely hear a mention. Ditto for the others.
I recognize that I’m kind of bringing this topic back up kind of late, but I’m new to the Mubi community and was really shocked by this films reception within this circle. It seems that most people throughout this community aren’t really fans of Black Swan, but I on the other hand thoroughly enjoyed it. Let me first off say Aronofsky is one of those directors I always seem to miss. I saw The Fountain, really didn’t like that, and Requiem for a Dream was nothing special. So for the comments to the effect of “You’re either an Aronofsky fan or your not” I don’t think thats necessarily true, as this was my first film by him that I thought was spectacular.
One of the major themes that comes up is the idea of subtlety. Let me first off say that I recognize that this film doesn’t practice subtlety in any matter, or require any deep thought for understanding. I do however think this is where the film excels. I love films that require you to interpret and think for yourself, but I also think there is a place for a film that acts as more of a ride and thinks for you. Its a piece developed for entertainment, and I was throughly entertained.
I do think there may have been some elements that were open for interpretation however. For instance I don’t believe that Lily was a real person but a manifestation of Nina’s insanity. In other words her black swan persona develops originally as a separate person within her mind. For instance she appears when Nina is first auditioning for the Black Swan segment, this character comes in and throws her off. Just like she is thrown off by the idea of embodying that persona. The character of Lily is not at all invasive in any of the plots development other than in the development of Nina’s character. I don’t want to go on about this but it really seemed to me that Lily was just another product of Nina’s descent into madness.
Also I recognize that the cinematography was simple, but in its simplicity it was excellent. It may have been a product of cinematography 101 but it was carried out to perfection. None of the shots stood out as incredibly revolutionary or anything of the sort, but in their basic sense the film had a very gritty, embodied feel derived from the cinematography.
Yes Black Swan was a popcorn studio driven arthouse flick but it was an excellent one. I would’ve given it Best Picture over the other nominees easily. I thoroughly enjoyed this film.
I don’t like Tchaikovsky in the first place and Clint Mansell is truly second rate.
It’s just not my kind of movie. A money spinning genre pic. I will say that I think Mila Kunis could be a great actress.
If you don’t like Tchaikovsky, you don’t like melody.
That’s partly true. It’s often too gaudy and maudlin. Sorry. I’m a musicologist.
And I don’t know what kind of equipment Clint Mansell is using. I know I don’t like it.
I don’t know who I’m speaking to here or what your taste in music is. So I’m going to appraise your taste in music going by your posts.
The Stranglers/Hugh Cornwell
Middling Indie Rock music. You probably like The Doors too.
The Stooges/Iggy Pop
I have no idea.
John Coltrane Quartet
And Jimmy Scott too. Pedestrian taste in Jazz.
I like the DIY attitude of post punk music.
Ha Ha Ha.
I don’t like Bowie. Why don’t you listen to KRAUTROCK.
You don’t know the first thing about punk music.
Ebenezer and the Scrooges…er, Bludgeons
Without a doubt, Beethoven. His late string quartets are both groundbreaking and sublime. Without Beethoven and J S Bach who knows what modern music would sound like. Their innovations are felt to this day and all great artists/composers list them as influences.
More pretentiousness. You have heard somebody else say you like those composers somewhere.
You like The Beatles and ELP.
From this I see that you don’t understand music or romanticism. Do you even have ears?